When you look back on your life, you may see things that upset you. Perhaps you drank too much or neglected your family. Maybe your parents abused you or made choices that forced you into some pretty dark places.
One of the reasons that old stories can have such power over you is because actions and behaviors in the past can have long-reaching consequences. For example, if you were abused as a child, maybe you wondered what was wrong with you. If you lost a spouse or child, you’ve probably questioned what you did to deserve it. These sorts of thoughts can cause you to create stories that keep you stuck in your pain.
But if you want to move forward and write a new story, you have to acknowledge and make peace with your past. The Gifts of Imperfection is an amazing book that has been a great help for people who have been looking to move on.
Accepting Your Past
Accepting the choices you’ve made or the things that have happened means you’re no longer working to change it. You’ve accepted that there’s nothing you can do or say that will improve the situation. For example, if you lost custody of your now-grown kids because you were an alcoholic, you can’t go back and fix their childhood.
Acceptance might look like facing what happened without excuses. Maybe it means acknowledging the situation to your adult kids. You could say, “I’m an alcoholic and I wasn’t around for you when you were little. I’m sorry for the choices I made and the pain I caused you.”
Letting Yourself Grieve
Once you’ve accepted your past, you may look at it and see what you’ve lost. Perhaps an abusive parent stole what should have been a carefree childhood. Maybe you realize your alcoholism stole your marriage and your family.
When you know what you’ve lost, it’s natural to grieve it. You may experience the different stages of grief like anger, bargaining, or depression. It’s healthy to grieve a loss whether it was the loss of a person you loved or the loss of what your life should have been.
You need to express everything you feel about this situation. Have you let yourself experience your anger? Have you really let yourself feel your sadness over what happened?
Surrounding Yourself with Support
With help from supportive friends, work through your emotions. Do whatever it takes and don’t feel like you have to do it alone.
You might consider writing an angry letter that you never intend to send. You could try talking it through with a counselor you trust. You could re-enact a difficult event with a kind friend.
Forgiveness is the final step you need to take before you can truly let go of an old story and start a new one. Understand that accepting your past means you acknowledge that no one’s perfect. Letting yourself grieve is about processing what happened.
Forgiveness is about releasing the person who hurt you, even if that person was you. This doesn’t mean the person who harmed you shouldn’t have to face the consequences of their actions. It also doesn’t mean you have to allow the hurtful person back into your life.
At its core, forgiveness is refusing to limit your future because of what happened in the past. You might say, “I forgive my father for his verbal abuse. I release these events and I embrace a new beginning by surrounding myself with men who treat me well.”